A man of principle, a man of ideas, one of the best of team-mates and a friend – those are among the many words that have been used to describe Chris Beech following his death at the age of 54.

The regional marketing manager for the Watford Observer’s parent company Newsquest’s south east region, Chris passed away on Thursday, July 23 following major surgery a few days previously. He leaves wife Liz and sons, Will and Tom.

Based at the company’s Watford office for many years, Chris was a former compositor, sub-editor and editor of the St Albans Observer and will be fondly remembered by so many colleagues.

His involvement and influence in communities stretched far beyond a near 33-year association with newspapers though. He was a former player with West Herts Hockey Club, a coach and team manager at Harrow Rugby Club and a regular at The Swan pub in Bushey.

Recalling their mutual love of real ale and shared love of the film It’s A Wonderful Live, former Watford Observer assistant editor Oliver Phillips said: “His life was painfully short but I know and hope parts of it were indeed wonderful. A lovely colleague.”

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Born in September 1965, Chris began work with the company in August 1987.

Newsquest south east managing director Mike Harper said: “It is rare to find someone who cares as much about people as they do about the products they produce and the customers that consume them. Chris Beech was one such man.

“Losing Chris has been a tragedy for Liz, his wife, and for his sons of whom he was so proud.

“His loss has also had a profound impact on those he worked with for so long, his colleagues and his friends.”

Mike recalled how Chris’ passion for the business and attention to detail saw him move into a marketing role, first in north London and then the south east, having spent a significant period of his career as a successful editor and his knowledge and experience led to him being involved in group-wide projects.

He said: “As impressive as his career was, the remarkable thing was that he achieved all that he did and remained kind an thoughtful towards others, whilst maintaining a focused eye on the business and the customers it serves.

“The business will be a poorer place without Chris’ focus and skill, but that is not the only thing he will be remembered most for. Most of all his colleagues, and the executive team he was part of, will remember Chris for be a true gentleman, a man of principle, a man of ideas and a man of respect.

“Our thoughts are with Liz and the boys. Those of us who were fortunate enough to work with Chris share your sadness at his untimely loss.”

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Former colleague Bob Ambrose knew Chris for around 20 years. He said: “I never knew him once to raise his voice. He was really calm, so helpful and kind with his time.

“With him in marketing and me as designer we liaised a lot with work, but I saw him more as a friend than a colleague. We used to chat about anything and everything, be it cricket, his kids, Will and Tom, loads of things.”

Another former colleague Tom Moore said: "I loved working with Chris and I will always be grateful of his support, knowledge (not just of fonts) patience, advice and most of all his friendship.

"I’m so grateful that we were able to continue and strengthen this friendship outside of work, and that I was privileged to meet his family, friends and share many treasured moments with him over a pint or two."

West Herts Hockey Club’s Ralph Darvill remembered how Chris joined the club in the mid-1980s while he was attending Watford Technical College, having moved to the area from Kent.

Most of his playing career was in the Seconds, which he captained from 1989 to 1992 and had a “fierce commitment” to scoring goals as a centre forward.

Ralph said: "’Beechy’, was a captain's dream; available every week, full of personality and drive. He was also very keen on the social aspect of club hockey, which was a very big part of the game back then.

"A man keen on a post-match pub stop, Chris was a regular fixture in the bar post-match, he would break the mould of sitting only with one's own team and spread good humour throughout the room.

“He enjoyed the club's annual tours to Worthing and Cardiff and regularly played in the Sunday ‘Stags’ team.

“The universal comment that has come from his former colleagues was that he was one of the funniest, friendliest and best of team-mates. There are a whole host of anecdotes coming to light and bringing smiles to sad faces.

“Sadly, in the late 90s Chris had to call it a day owing to his Lupus.

“Our loss was Harrow RFC's gain of course, where he took his energy for sport into coaching and watching the burgeoning careers of his two sons."

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Harrow chairman Andrew Smart said: “Chris was an Old Haberdasher but he coached extensively across the junior section and when his sons, Tom and Will, became regular 1st XV players he gave similar commitment to our senior section, ultimately becoming the 1st XV manager.

“Fit and healthy, Chris made a significant contribution to our club over many years and across both sections. Our thoughts go out to his wife Liz and both sons at this desperate time and to their friends across the club who will find it difficult to comprehend this terrible and wholly unexpected news.

“As our club continues on its journey we say goodbye to a top man who had so much more to give. We thank him for his friendship, his decency, his loyalty and his service. We will miss him very much."